Posts Tagged ‘Pension Building’

Sculptor Caspar Buberl and General Montgomery Meigs (former Quartermaster General of the Union Army) “agreed to a design in which scenes of infantry, cavalry, artillery, and sailors, as well as a quartermaster, medical personnel, and a black teamster … would proceed around the building. The repetition helped the project to be economical, but the frieze’s sheer length helped the repetition to not be overly noticeable.”
— Kim O’Connell, “Former Pension Bureau A Stunning Tribute to Civil War Soldiers,” HistoryNet (accessed April 4, 2022)

Meigs also wrote to Buberl:
“Most of the drivers of Baggage wagons were freedmen Blacks. They wore whatever they could pick up, any rusted ragged garment. But very many or perhaps most of them succeeded in getting possession of cast off blue overcoats. Perhaps it will be better not to give them this overcoat which will make them like enlisted men, which they seldom were. But by all means make the driver a Negro full blooded. A soft hat very much dilapidated will be right. I leave all the clothes to your taste, but he must be a Negro, a plantation slave freed by war.”
— Joyce L. McDaniel, “Caspar Buberl: The Pension Building Civil War Frieze and Other Washington, D.C. Sculpture,” Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Washington, D.C., Vol. 50, The Fiftieth Volume (1980), p. 333

Click on “Pension Building” in the Tags box to the right to see more posts about this building.

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Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd president, was inaugurated March 4, 1889, a year before the 1890 “Veterans Census.” John Philip Sousa’s Marine Band played at the Inaugural Ball inside the Pension Building.
His grandfather William Henry Harrison, the ninth president, had been inaugurated in 1841. A Virginian and an enslaver he died 31 days after his swearing-in.
For more information about Benjamin Harrison, William Henry Harrison (including his two-hour inauguration speech), and the Patent Office/Pension Building/National Building Museum, see these links:

Pension Building, 1918, 1st U.S. Colored Cavalry: Private Lives, Public Records, June 22, 2020
Washington, Pension Office,” 1st U.S. Colored Cavalry: Private Lives, Pubic Records, July 29, 2019
Pension Building, Washington, DC , 1st U.S. Colored Cavalry: Private Lives, Public Records, December 31, 2018

NPS: Benjamin Harrison Home, Indiana
The White House: Benjamin Harrison
The White House: William Henry Harrison

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Pension Building, 1918

Washington, D.C., circa 1918. “Pension Office interior.” This former repository of Civil War veterans’ pension records is now the National Building Museum. National Photo Company Collection glass negative.

This photograph of the Pension Building was taken in 1918: Woodrow Wilson was President, the influenza pandemic ravaged the globe, and World War I ended.
Awesome 1918 View Inside the Pension Building,” Ghosts of DC, December 9, 2013


“In 1980 an Act of Congress designated the Pension Building as the site of a new museum celebrating American achievements in the building arts. The National Building Museum opened in 1985, the same year the building was designated a National Historic Landmark.”
Pension Building (National Building Museum), Washington, DC,” U.S. General Services Administration

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General Montgomery C. Meigs “was ready to retire in 1881 when instead he was appointed by Congress to build a large new office building to house the burgeoning U.S. Pension Bureau that was in charge of distributing pensions to Civil War veterans. Meigs chose a block-long site at the northern end of Judiciary Square where the infamous “Blue Jug”—the city’s old decrepit jail—had stood in earlier days. On this site Meigs conceived an immense modern office building that would be relatively inexpensive to construct but nevertheless elegant in decoration and far more practical than most contemporary buildings of its type. The result was a great red-brick palace, or perhaps an “old red barn,” depending on your point of view. With an eclectic mix of styles and materials, the resulting structure was as grand and impressive as it was ungainly in proportions.”
Streets of Washington: Stories and Images of Historic Washington, DC

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frieze-pension-bldg_500x388“The Pension Building was built as a memorial to the Union soldiers, sailors, and marines of the Civil War. This memorial theme is carried out by the exterior frieze extending completely around the building depicting a parade of military Civil War units. The frieze was designed and sculpted by Bohemian-born Caspar Buberl. [It] was meant to make a statement about the power of the military in American society. The building has national significance because it represents the Civil War generation’s own memorial to the Civil War. It has further significance because it was built for and occupied by the Pension Bureau, the first Federal veterans agency to operate on a national scale.” — National Park Service, Washington, DC: Pension Building, accessed December 30, 2018

The postcard’s from the author’s collection.


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